Jeffco Points Steering For Insect, Animal-Borne Ailments


JEFFERSON COUNTY, CO – With Coloradans busy planning summer barbecues, hiking trips, and other outdoor activities, Jefferson County public health officials issued guidelines on Wednesday to prevent the transmission of diseases spread by insects and animals.

“By spring and early summer, we’re all ready to go outside and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer,” said Dave Volkel, environmental health specialist for Jefferson County Public Health.

“By following these tips, you can protect yourself from animal and insect-borne diseases and get the most out of your outdoor activities to healthcare providers right away.”

Here is the agency’s guide for the most common diseases:

rabies is a preventable viral disease most commonly transmitted through the bite or saliva of a rabid animal. If left untreated, rabies can cause serious illness and is almost always fatal. It’s important to take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones – including furry friends – from rabies. Rabies has been detected in most land animals and in unvaccinated cats and dogs in Colorado. Bats, skunks, and raccoons test positive for rabies each year in Jefferson County, although any mammal can get rabies.

How to prevent rabies:

  • Vaccinate all cats, dogs, ferrets, and valuable livestock against rabies. Keeping your pets informed of their rabies vaccination will prevent them from contracting the disease from wildlife and prevent possible transmission to your family or anyone else.
  • Bats are found indoors every year, so even your domestic cats, dogs, and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies.
  • When cleaning your pet after a known or suspicious encounter with a wildlife, cover any exposed skin with a long sleeved shirt and gloves, and use a face mask to protect its mouth and nose and safety glasses to protect your eyes.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by a stray pet or wildlife, you should wash the wound with soap and water and contact your doctor to begin rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.
  • Do not treat or feed wildlife, and leave young wildlife alone. If you believe an animal has been abandoned, call your local animal welfare agency or the Colorado Department of Wildlife.

West Nile Virus is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. The West Nile virus is found in Colorado every year. While most people have no symptoms at all, some people with the virus develop a fever, fatigue, headache, muscle, and joint pain that can lead to serious illness.

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How to Prevent West Nile Virus

  • Use an Environmental Protection Agency registered insect repellent with an approved active ingredient like DEET. When used as directed, EPA registered insect repellants have been shown to be safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
    • You should choose the concentration of DEET in your bug spray that best suits the time you will be outside. For example, if you spend 5 hours outdoors, choose an insect repellent with 25 percent DEET. If you’re spending less than an hour and a half, choose 5 percent DEET as it takes up to 90 minutes. Always follow the instructions carefully.
  • You can use a product with up to 30 percent DEET on any child over 2 months old, but don’t have them apply it themselves and make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly after applying to prevent the insect repellent from getting into their eyes or mouths.
  • Wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks to protect your skin from insects. If you also spray your clothes with insect repellent, you increase the protection. In addition, the more skin you cover, the more protection you have from the harmful UVA and UVB rays that cause skin cancer.
  • Get rid of stagnant water and brush your home. Even an aluminum can or saucer can hold enough water for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Routinely drain standing water.

Other diseases you should know about:

  • Tularemia is a bacterial disease that is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks and direct contact with infected mammals. Tularemia is also transmitted by deer fly bites and by handling infected animal tissue, such as hunting or skinning rabbits or eating undercooked meat from infected animals. The most common symptoms are fever, chills, headache and body aches, and fatigue, which can last for up to several weeks. Tularemia like the plague is highly contagious and potentially fatal and, if diagnosed early, can usually be treated effectively with specific antibiotics.
  • Bubonic plague is a bacterial disease that is transmitted by rodent fleas. People usually get the plague from being bitten by a flea that has the plague in them or from handling an infected animal. Common symptoms are sudden severe discomfort, headache, chills, fever and pain in the lymph nodes. It is important to note, however, that plague cases in humans and pets are treatable as long as they are detected early. While the plague is rare in humans, we’ve seen cases in prairie dogs and squirrels in Jefferson County.
  • Some mosquitoes can transmit Zika, a virus that can be passed from mother to baby and cause birth defects. Although the mosquitoes that transmit Zika do not live in Colorado, it’s important to protect yourself when traveling to areas such as Mexico, the Caribbean, and other high-risk areas identified by the CDC. The symptoms of Zika are very similar to those of the West Nile Virus.

>> For more information on insect and animal borne diseases and prevention in Jeffco, please visit here.